Artefacts are usually understood in contrast with natural kinds and conceived as a unitary kind. Here we propose that there is in fact a variety of artefacts: from the more concrete to the more abstract ones. Moreover, not every artefact is able to fulfil its function thanks to its physical properties: Some artefacts, particularly what we call “institutional” artefacts, are symbolic in nature and require a system of rules to exist and to fulfil their function. Adopting a standard method to (...) measure conceptual representation (the property generation task), we have experimentally explored how humans conceptualise these different kinds of artefacts. Results indicate that institutional artefacts are typically opposed to social objects, while being more similar to standard artefacts, be they abstract or concrete. (shrink)
Thinking about what the senses cannot grasp is one of the hallmarks of human cognition. We argue that “intangible abstracta” are represented differently from other products of abstraction, that goal-derived categorization supports their learning, and that they are grounded also in internalized linguistic and social interaction. We conclude by suggesting different ways in which abstractness contributes to cement group cohesion.
Both evolutionary and developmental research indicate that humans are adapted to respecting property rights, independently (and possibly orthogonally) of considerations of fairness. We offer evidence from psychological experiments suggesting that enforcing one's rights and respecting others' possessions are basic cognitive mechanisms automatically activated and grounded in humans' sensory-motor system. This may entail an independent motivation that is more profound than considerations of fairness and impartiality.
The aim of this paper is to clarify what kind of normativity characterizes a convention. First, we argue that conventions have normative consequences because they always involve a form of trust and reliance. We contend that it is by reference to a moral principle impinging on these aspects (i.e. the principle of Reliability) that interpersonal obligations and rights originate from conventional regularities. Second, we argue that the system of mutual expectations presupposed by conventions is a source of agreements. Agreements stemming (...) from conventions are “tacit” in the sense that they are implicated by what agents do (or forbear from doing) and without that any communication between them is necessary. To justify this conclusion, we assume that: (1) there is a salient interpretation, in some contexts, of everyone’s silence as confirmatory of the others’ expectations (an epistemic assumption), and (2) the participating agents share a value of not being motivated by hostile attitudes (a motivational assumption). By clarifying the relation between conventions and agreements, the peculiar normativity of conventions is analyzed. (shrink)
Mind reading (i.e. the ability to infer the mental state of another agent) is taken to be the main cognitive ability required to share an intention and to collaborate. In this paper, I argue that another cognitive ability is also necessary to collaborate: representing others’ and ones’ own goals from a third-person perspective (other-centred or allocentric representation of goals). I argue that allocentric mind reading enables the cognitive ability of goal adoption, i.e. having the goal that another agent’s achieve p (...) because and as long as another agent has that goal that p. Having clarified the relevance of mutual goal adoption for acting jointly, I argue that when an intention is shared between several agents, each individual has an intention in favour of the joint action and one in favour of a joint mode of reasoning. This mode of reasoning is allocentric reasoning. Finally, I elaborate on the consequences of this view for the scientific study of human collaboration. (shrink)
When acting in social contexts, we are often able to voluntarily coordinate our choices with one another. It has been suggested that this ability relies on the adoption of preferences that transcend those of the individuals involved in the social interaction. Conditional game theory provides a formal framework that facilitates the study of coordinated rational choice in a way that disentangles the concepts of individual preference and group agency. We argue that these concepts are complementary: individual preferences are formed in (...) a social context and groups coordinate as socially influenced preferences interact. In particular, we show that if agents can engage in conditional reasoning and can define their preferences in the form of hypothetical propositions, group-level coordination can be grounded only on the preference of individuals. (shrink)
Computing systems can function as augmentation of individual humans as well as of human societies. In this contribution, we take mirror worlds as a conceptual blueprint to envision future smart environments in which the physical and the virtual layers are blended into each other. We suggest that pervasive computing technologies can be used to create a coupling between these layers, so that actions or, more generally, events in the physical layer would have an effect in the virtual layer and viceversa. (...) On top of this, wearable technologies and augmented reality techniques enable new forms of user interaction with the smart environment and with other users. Mirror worlds so conceived will enable temporal, individual, and social augmentations. We conclude by elaborating on some possible consequences at the societal level. (shrink)
Twentieth century philosophers introduced the distinction between “objective rightness” and “subjective rightness” to achieve two primary goals. The first goal is to reduce the paradoxical tension between our judgments of what is best for an agent to do in light of the actual circumstances in which she acts and what is wisest for her to do in light of her mistaken or uncertain beliefs about her circumstances. The second goal is to provide moral guidance to an agent who may be (...) uncertain about the circumstances in which she acts, and hence is unable to use her standard moral principle directly in deciding what to do. This paper distinguishes two important senses of “moral guidance”; proposes criteria of adequacy for accounts of subjective rightness; canvasses existing definitions for “subjective rightness”; finds them all deficient; and proposes a new and more successful account. It argues that each comprehensive moral theory must include multiple principles of subjective rightness to address the epistemic situations of the full range of moral decision-makers, and shows that accounts of subjective rightness formulated in terms of what it would reasonable for the agent to believe cannot provide that guidance. (shrink)
Using as a springboard a three-way debate between theoretical physicist Lee Smolin, philosopher of science Nancy Cartwright and myself, I address in layman’s terms the issues of why we need a unified theory of the fundamental interactions and why, in my opinion, string and M-theory currently offer the best hope. The focus will be on responding more generally to the various criticisms. I also describe the diverse application of string/M-theory techniques to other branches of physics and mathematics which render the (...) whole enterprise worthwhile whether or not “a theory of everything” is forthcoming. (shrink)
Recently two distinct forms of rule-utilitarianism have been introduced that differ on how to measure the consequences of rules. Brad Hooker advocates fixed-rate rule-utilitarianism, while Michael Ridge advocates variable-rate rule-utilitarianism. I argue that both of these are inferior to a new proposal, optimum-rate rule-utilitarianism. According to optimum-rate rule-utilitarianism, an ideal code is the code whose optimum acceptance level is no lower than that of any alternative code. I then argue that all three forms of rule-utilitarianism fall prey to two fatal (...) problems that leave us without any viable form of rule-utilitarianism. (shrink)
Listening to someone from some distance in a crowded room you may experience the following phenomenon: when looking at them speak, you may both hear and see where the source of the sounds is; but when your eyes are turned elsewhere, you may no longer be able to detect exactly where the voice must be coming from. With your eyes again fixed on the speaker, and the movement of her lips a clear sense of the source of the sound will (...) return. This ‘ventriloquist’ effect reflects the ways in which visual cognition can dominate auditory perception. And this phenomenological observation is one what you can verify or disconfirm in your own case just by the slightest reflection on what it is like for you to listen to someone with or without visual contact with them. (shrink)
In the years 1878 and 1879 the American physicist Alfred Marshall Mayer published his experiments with floating magnets as a didactic illustration of molecular actions and forms. A number of physicists made use of this analogy of molecular structure. For William Thomson they were a mechanical illustration of the kinetic equilibrium of groups of columnar vortices revolving in circles round their common centre of gravity . A number of modifications of Mayer's experiments were described, which gave configurations which were more (...) or less analogous to Mayer's arrangements. It was Joseph John Thomson who, in publications between 1897 and 1907, used Mayer's results to obtain a good deal of insight into the general laws which govern the configuration of the electrons in his atomic model. This article is mainly concerned with Mayer's experiments with floating magnets and their use by a number of physicists. Through his experiments Mayer made a significant, although small, contribution to the theory of atomic structure. (shrink)
A large body of literature agrees that persons with schizophrenia suffer from a Theory of Mind deficit. However, most empirical studies have focused on third-person, egocentric ToM, underestimating other facets of this complex cognitive skill. Aim of this research is to examine the ToM of schizophrenic persons considering its various aspects, to determine whether some components are more impaired than others. We developed a Theory of Mind Assessment Scale and administered it to 22 persons with a DSM-IV diagnosis of schizophrenia (...) and a matching control group. Th.o.m.a.s. is a semi-structured interview which allows a multi-component measurement of ToM. Both groups were also administered a few existing ToM tasks and the schizophrenic subjects were administered the Positive and Negative Symptoms Scale and the WAIS-R. The schizophrenic persons performed worse than control at all the ToM measurements; however, these deficits appeared to be differently distributed among different components of ToM. Our conclusion is that ToM deficits are not unitary in schizophrenia, which also testifies to the importance of a complete and articulated investigation of ToM. (shrink)
We argue that thoughts are structures of concepts, and that concepts should be individuated by their origins, rather than in terms of their semantic or epistemic properties. Many features of cognition turn on the vehicles of content, thoughts, rather than on the nature of the contents they express. Originalism makes concepts available to explain, with no threat of circularity, puzzling cases concerning thought. In this paper, we mention Hesperus/Phosphorus puzzles, the Evans-Perry example of the ship seen through different windows, and (...) Mates cases, and we believe that there are many additional applications. (shrink)
In his article ‘Saints and Heroes’, Urmson argues that traditional moral theories allow at most for a threefold classification of actions in terms of their worth, and that they are therefore unsatisfactory. Since the conclusion of his argument has led to the widespread use of the term ‘acts of supererogation’, and since I do not believe that such acts exist, I propose to argue that the actions with which he is concerned not only can, but should, be contained within the (...) traditional classification. (shrink)
It is a standing temptation for philosophers to find anticipations of their own views in the great thinkers of the past, but few have been so bold in the search for precursors, and so utterly mistaken, as Berkeley when he claimed Plato and Aristotle as allies to his immaterialist idealism. In Siris: A Chain of Philosophical Reflexions and Inquiries Concerning the Virtues of Tar-Water , which Berkeley published in his old age in 1744, he reviews the leading philosophies of antiquity (...) and finds them on the whole a good deal more sympathetic to his own ideas than the ‘modern atheism’, as he calls it, of Hobbes and Spinoza or the objectionable principles of ‘the mechanic and geometrical philosophers’ such as Newton . But his strongest and, I think, his most interesting claim is that neither Plato nor Aristotle admitted ‘an absolute actual existence of sensible or corporeal things’. (shrink)
Theaetetus, asked what knowledge is, replies that geometry and the other mathematical disciplines are knowledge, and so are crafts like cobbling. Socrates points out that it does not help him to be told how many kinds of knowledge there are when his problem is to know what knowledge itself is, what it means to call geometry or a craft knowledge in the first place—he insists on the generality of his question in the way he often does when his interlocutor, asked (...) for a definition, cites instead cases of the concept to be defined. (shrink)
Is God's foreknowledge compatible with human freedom? One of the most attractive attempts to reconcile the two is the Ockhamistic view, which subscribes not only to human freedom and divine omniscience, but retains our most fundamental intuitions concerning God and time: that the past is immutable, that God exists and acts in time, and that there is no backward causation. In order to achieve all that, Ockhamists distinguish ‘hard facts’ about the past which cannot possibly be altered from ‘soft facts’ (...) about the past which are alterable, and argue that God's prior beliefs about human actions are soft facts about the past. (shrink)
R. M. Adams’s essay, “Must God Create the Best?” can be interpreted as offering a theodicy for God’s creating morally less perfect beings than he could have created. By creating these morally less perfect beings, God is bestowing grace upon them, which is an unmerited or undeserved benefit. He does so, however, in advance of the free moral misdeeds that render them undeserving. This requires that God have middle knowledge, pace Adams’s version of the Free Will Theodicy, of what would (...) result from his actualization of possible free persons. It is argued that God’s possession of such middle knowledge negates the freedom of created beings, since God completely determines every action of every created person. And since they are not free, they cannot qualify as morally unmeritorious or undeserving. And, with that, Adams’s theodicy of grace-in-advance collapses. (shrink)
I had a strange dream, or half-waking vision, not long ago. I found myself at the top of a mountain in the mist, feeling very pleased with myself, not just for having climbed the mountain, but for having achieved my life's ambition, to find a way of answering moral questions rationally. But as I was preening myself on this achievement, the mist began to clear, and I saw that I was surrounded on the mountain top by the graves of all (...) those other philosophers, great and small, who had had the same ambition, and thought they had achieved it. And I have come to see, reflecting on my dream, that, ever since, the hard-working philosophical worms have been nibbling away at their systems and showing that the achievement was an illusion. True, their skeletons, indigestible to worms, remained, and were surprisingly similar to one another. But I was led to think again about what one can, and what one cannot, achieve in this direction. (shrink)
Moral theories which, like those of Plato, Aristotle and Aquinas, give a central place to the virtues, tend to assume that as traits of character the virtues are mutually compatible so that it is possible for one and the same person to possess them all. This assumption—let us call it the compatibility thesis—does not deny the existence of painful moral dilemmas: it allows that the virtues may conflict in particular situations when considerations associated with different virtues favour incompatible courses of (...) action, but holds that these conflicts occur only at the level of individual actions. Thus while it may not always be possible to do both what would be just and what would be kind or to act both loyally and honestly, it is possible to be both a kind and a just person and to have both the virtue of loyalty and the virtue of honesty. (shrink)
Ronald Dworkin argues on the basis of a theory of well-being that critical paternalism is self-defeating. People must endorse their lives if they are to benefit. This is the endorsement constraint and this paper rejects it. For certain kinds of important mistakes that people can make in their lives, the endorsement constraint is either incredible or too narrow to rule out as much paternalism as Dworkin wants. The endorsement constraint cannot be interpreted to give sensible judgements when people change their (...) minds about the value of their lives. And the main argument for the endorsement constraint, which is based on the value of integrity, does not support Dworkin's anti-paternalism. (shrink)
In the intellectual autobiography that opens this book, Chisholm divides philosophers into “drones” and “commentators,” placing himself in the first group. As a drone, Chisholm proposed solutions to philosophical problems and asked his students and colleagues to try to refute him. He reports that they often did, sending him back to the drawing board. Chisholm’s wry self-description says much about his manner as well as his method. A more pretentious philosopher might have spoken of his dogged search for philosophical truth (...) in an age when many have come to disparage that quest. (shrink)
Ever since its first publication critics of Kant's Critique of Pure Reason have been struck by certain strong formal resemblances between transcendental idealism and Berkeley's immaterialism. Both philosophers hold that the sensible world is mind-dependent, and that from this very mind-dependence we can draw a refutation of scepticism of the senses.